The Kid and what was left of the Regulators wandered in the hills on foot, until they stole some horses and made their way to San Patricio, a small Mexican village fourteen miles south of Lincoln. After lying low for about two weeks to avoid capture from the new sheriff, George Peppin, the Regulators rode to the Mescalero Apache Reservation Agency near Blazer’s Mill. Aside from themselves, they also had three Mexicans with them, one of them was the former constable, Atanacio Martinez. While the Kid and the Regulators headed to a spring to water their horses, the Mexicans continued down the road towards the Agency. The Mexicans then encountered some Mescalero Indians, who figured they were there to steal their horses at the mill and started to shoot at them.  Indian agent Fred Godfrey and his clerk Morris Bernstein heard the shooting, Bernstein, without delay, mounted a horse and galloped to where the shooting was coming from. Antanacio would later say that Bernstein had fired at him, and in self-defense he fired back, killing Bernstein.

Meanwhile at the spring, the Kid and the others dismounted to water their horses when suddenly the gunfire broke out. The Kid’s horse reared up and pulled away, leaving the Kid without a mount. George Coe pulled the Kid up behind him on his horse and the Regulators took off. Then taking advantage of the commotion, they rode around towards the corrals, and while the Kid was getting himself a new horse, the others opened the gate and made off with all the agency’s horses and mules. Though Antanacio would later turn himself in and admit to killing Bernstein in self-defense, the Kid, who never even fired a single shot, would once again be blamed for another killing he had nothing to do with.

The Regulators rode north to Fort Sumner, an old army fort turned into a Mexican village, which would become like a home to the Kid. The Regulators lived the life of riley by dancing at bailes, carousing and visiting with pretty senoritas. But as time passed, the Coe cousins and Fred Waite were tired of dodging the law and wanted to settle down, so they quit the Regulators. The Kid, on the other hand, wasn’t yet tired of his wild ways, so he and the remaining Regulators went back to Lincoln.

After taunting and intimidating his enemies in Lincoln, the Kid and his gang raided Fritz Ranch and made off with some horses. They then headed to the Texas Panhandle and sold the horse at Tascosa, Texas. The Tascosa residents didn’t seem to care about the gang’s presence, as long as they behaved themselves and didn’t cause any trouble. The Kid settled right in at Tascosa, and much as he did in Fort Sumner, he partied every night, courted the ladies, and competed in target shooting and horse racing.


While the Kid was whooping it up in Tascosa, things in Lincoln weren’t faring any better. Residents were pleased to see Governor Axtell finally replaced by a new governor, a retired general named Lew Wallace, but all hell was still breaking loose. John Selman formed a ruthless gang called “The Rustlers” which consisted of the most dangerous badmen in the territory; most of them being former members of the Boys. The Rustlers went on a rampage of raiding and burning down ranches, killing anyone who got in their way, and even gang raping two women and shooting two young Mexican boys just for the hell of it. When someone brave enough to ask who they were, they yelled out “We are devils just come from Hell!” This gang had far surpassed anything Billy the Kid and his gang had ever done, yet history tends to forget about the “Rustlers” and brand the Kid as the sole terrorist of New Mexico.

The Regulators broke up in Tascosa, and the Rustlers left Lincoln County and would eventually split up as well. As for the Kid, he and his long time sidekick Tom O’Folliard returned to New Mexico and Lincoln County. It had been less then two months since the Kid was in Lincoln, and things had actually started to quiet down. The new governor had offered an amnesty proclamation in hopes to smolder out what was left of the Lincoln County War. Since everyone else was being forgiven and able to settle down, the Kid didn’t see why he couldn’t. By now the Kid was tired of running and wanted to square himself with the law and his enemies. The Kid knew he didn’t qualify for Governor Wallace’s pardon, so he decided to clear himself with his adversaries. So with good intentions he put out a peace offer to James Dolan and Jesse Evans.

On February 18, 1879 both sides of the Lincoln County War met for a parley. After a tense moment instigated by Jesse Evans, who wanted to kill the Kid on the spot, both sides calmed down and talked it out. While this was happening, Sheriff Kimbrell (who had replaced Peppin) hightailed it to Fort Stanton to get military assistance to arrest the Kid. In the meantime an agreement was finally made between the two sides: neither party will kill any member without first giving notice of withdrawing from the treaty, all persons who have acted as friends are included in the agreement and are not to be molested, no officer or soldier are to be killed for any act previous to the date of the agreement, neither party shall testify against the other, each party must aid the other in avoiding capture or help in their escape, and lastly, anyone who failed to carry out or break the agreement would be killed on sight. After a round of handshakes and swearing to the treaty, the two sides went to celebrate at every saloon in town.

The hour was late and the men were drunk as they staggered from one tavern to the next, residents stayed out of their way but watched from a distance, and it seemed everyone anticipated what was going to happen next.  The men then came upon Mrs. McSween’s attorney, Huston Chapman.  Mrs. McSween was going after the Dolan faction and Colonel Dudley for the death of her husband, which made not only her, but also Chapman a target. Dolan and his men stopped the attorney on the street and began to harass and threaten him. The Kid, who was probably the only sober one in the group, sensed a killing and witnesses would later report, he tried to walk away, but Jesse Evans blocked him and made him stay. Bill Campbell, a friend of both Evans and Dolan, pulled out his gun and pointed it at Chapmen. Dolan too, pulled out his gun and then fired it in the ground at Chapman. Campbell then reacted to the sound and pulled the trigger of his gun, shooting Chapman in the chest and killing him. The Dolan men then poured whiskey over his body and set fire to it and walked away rejoicing. The Kid and Tom O’Folliard had no choice but to follow the men to a restaurant. While eating oysters, Dolan suggested that one of them should go back to Chapman’s body and put a gun in his hand, so they could say that the shooting was in self-defense. The Kid was anxious to leave this group and eagerly volunteered. But once outside, the Kid did nothing of the sort, but instead he and O’Folliard immediately mounted their horses and skinned out.

Outraged by the cold-bloodied killing of the attorney, Governor Wallace went to Lincoln to oversee the arrest of the killers. While talking with residents about the incident, he learned the Kid was a front row witness to the murder, so Wallace put out a warrant for his arrest. The Kid learned that Wallace wanted him, so he figured this may be an opportunity to right his wrong and square himself with the law. If he could get on the side of the governor, who needed him as a witness to convict Chapman’s killers, he could make a deal for amnesty and finally settle down. But by testifying he would be breaking the treaty with his enemies, which was punishable by death. This would be the biggest gamble of his life, but the reward would be well worth it. On March 13, 1879 the Kid wrote to the governor and offered to testify against Chapman’s murderers in exchange to have his indictments annulled. The governor wrote back inviting the Kid to meet with him. In his letter to the Kid, he wrote, “I have authority to exempt you from prosecution if you will testify to what you say you know,” and he closed with: “If you could trust Jesse Evans, you can trust me.”

On March 17th, the Kid met the governor in Lincoln. During the meeting, Governor Lew Wallace made the promise the Kid had hoped for. The governor stated clearly, that if the Kid testified in court, that “in return for you’re doing this, I will let you go scot-free with a pardon in your pocket for all your
misdeeds.”  The agreement was made. The Kid would submit to a fake arrest, testify against Chapman’s killers, James Dolan and Colonel Dudley, for a full pardon. A couple days later, the Kid and Tom O’Folliard surrendered to Sheriff Kimbrell as planned and were confined at Patron’s store. The governor interviewed the Kid by asking him about the Rustlers’ hideouts and about the rustling activities in the territory. The Kid held nothing back and told everything that Governor Wallace wanted to know.

The following month the Kid began his court appearances, but due to the fact that Judge Bristol and prosecutor William Rynerson were Dolan men, the defendants were either pardoned under the governor’s proclamation or acquitted. Surprisingly O'Folliard was even given amnesty, but the Kid wasn't so lucky. The Kid's enemies were dead set on not letting him get away. The biggest threat to the Kid was prosecutor attorney William Rynerson, who not only wouldn't go along with the governor's bargain with the Kid,  but got a change of venue to Dona Ana County for the Kid's trial. So instead of being tried in Lincoln where the Kid would be  acquitted, he would be put on trial in a very bias courtroom where he didn't stand a chance. But that wasn’t the Kid’s only problem, the governor wasn’t making good his promise of a pardon, probably due to the lack of cooperation from Rynerson, so left the Kid to his fate, while he went back to Santa Fe to finish his book Ben Hur. After all, to Wallace, the Kid was just an outlaw -so who cares?

The Kid had been used and taken advantage of. He risked his life to carry out his end of the deal, told the governor and the courts everything they wanted to know, and helped Mrs. McSween by testify against Colonel Dudley for the death of her husband. Now his enemies were more furious with him than before and would do anything to see him dead. Although he was of help to others, no one came to his aid -the Kid felt betrayed and knew he was left to fend for himself. The guards at Patron’s store in Lincoln understood the Kid's predicament and didn't stop him when he and O'Folliard simply walked out and left. The Kid had hoped for a new start, but like always, it backed fired on him and now he was right back where he started...a wanted man.


The Kid returned to his old outlaw ways, as he had no choice, he couldn’t settle down and live an honest life since his enemies and the law were after him. While in Fort Sumner, the Kid was reunited with his old friends and former Regulators, Charlie Bowdre and Doc Scurlock. To get some much needed money, the Kid started rustling cattle from John Chisum’s herds. As the Kid saw it, he believed Chisum owed him fighting wages during the late Lincoln County War, but Chisum denied this, so the Kid just stole from his herds for the unpaid wages.

On January 10, 1880, the Kid was involved in his second “single handed” killing, and like Windy Cahill, he was another loudmouth bully that got on the Kid’s nerves, his name was Joe Grant. While the Kid was at a saloon in Fort Sumner, having drinks with Jim Chisum (John’s brother) and a couple of his cowboys, the Kid encountered a drunk who was trying to start trouble with him. Grant vowed that he would kill someone that night and the Kid had an idea who it would be. As the evening went on, Joe Grant was getting more obnoxious, then he noticed one of Chisum’s cowboys had a nice ivory hand revolver, so he took it and replaced it with his own. The cowboy knew better to contest it, but the Kid saw this as a chance to cover himself against the rowdy drunk. The Kid knew the cowboy had fired that gun earlier at a target, so he lifted Grant’s stolen gun out of the holster and pretended to admire it, as he was doing this he spun the cylinder so the hammer would hit the empty used shell, instead of a live one. Later when the Kid turned to walk out the door, Grant drew his gun and fired, but the gun only went “click.” Upon hearing the click, the Kid wheeled about, drew his gun and fired “BANG BANG BANG,” and Joe Grant was dead. The killing was dismissed as just another saloon fracas and the Kid was never charged.

By now the Kid was eighteen or nineteen (?) and had spent the last five years of his life wandering and running from the law. After he rode out of Lincoln, he was causing quite a stir stealing livestock and dabbling in counterfeiting. Though there were other outlaws and rustlers in the area causing just as much trouble or more, the Kid was singled out, thanks in part to his powerful enemies who wanted him dead. One of the ways the Kid was "singled out" was through the press, which exaggerated his outlawry and built up his notoriety by making him out to be much worse than he really was. The Kid was tired of this stressful lifestyle, so he decided to make one last ditch effort at clearing himself. The Kid wrote to attorney Ira Leonard (who tried to help him months earlier in Lincoln to get his pardon), asking if he could help him once again to “straighten things out.” Leonard sent him a note that there was still a chance and for him to meet him in White Oaks in Lincoln County.

Pat Garrett

About this time, when the Kid was contacting Leonard, a tall lanky man by the name of Pat Garrett won the election for sheriff of Lincoln County. Garrett and Billy the Kid knew each other from Fort Sumner, where Garrett had worked as a cowhand for Pete Maxwell and then a bartender in one of the fort's saloons.  Garrett did know the Kid and his friends reasonable well, and Garrett was also familiar with the outlaw ways; a matter of fact, since he knew the Kid’s hideouts and activities may suggest, that he could've rustled a time or two with the Kid. Since Garrett was running for sheriff and knew his first job was to capture or kill Billy the Kid, and also when the Kid learned that Garrett was running, he wasn't too happy about it and favored his opponent Sheriff Kimbrell (one would think that if Garrett was really the Kid's friend, he would've been glad to see him become sheriff, because then the Kid could get immunity from the law), so due to their attitudes towards one another may go to show that whatever friendly relationship existed between them was gone. It was now every man for himself.


The Kid arrived in White Oaks to meet with Leonard, but the attorney was not there, probably because the Kid was about six weeks late. The Kid learned he was in Lincoln, so he and his friends stocked up on supplies at a store (which they may not have paid for) and rode out. A posse from White Oaks, led by James Carlyle, went after the gang and snuck up on them at a camp. Gunfire broke out and the outlaws scattered and mounted their horse to make a break. The Kid’s horse was shot out from under him and he ran off on foot. Even though they were caught completely by surprise, the Kid and his gang miraculously got away.

Not for long though, four days later, the posse caught up with the Kid and his gang hiding out at a ranch owned by Jim Greathouse. The house was surrounded, so the Kid invited the posse's leader, Deputy Carlyle, to come in to talk things over. To guarantee his safety, Greathouse offered himself as a hostage to the posse and Carlyle went in the house. The Kid learned Carlyle had no warrants for their arrest and refused to surrender, he then told Carlyle he’ll have to stay and lead them out when they make a break at nightfall. The posse outside was getting anxious and notes were exchanged back and forth with Greathouse's partner, Fred Kuch, acting as the messenger. The lawmen then demanded that if Carlyle wasn’t released in five minutes, Greathouse would be killed.

What happened next is up for debate. Kuch and the ranch cook, Joe Steck were told by the posse to make for cover because the posse was going to rush the house. No sooner did the two men make a run for it, a single shot was fired followed by a window shattering and shadowy figure making a run for it, then there was a  burst of gunfire. The sprinting man then fell dead -it was James Carlyle. The posse would later report that an accidental shot was fired from their side and then they saw Carlyle leap out the window and try to run from the house. The Kid then threw himself halfway out the window, took deliberate aim and shot the deputy  in cold blood. Another claim made several weeks later, after the Kid’s capture, was by James Bell, who was a member of Carlyle’s posse that night, he said that Billy the Kid gang member, Dave Rudabaugh, confessed that both he and Billy Wilson (another gang member) fired one shot each and the Kid twice at Carlyle. But remember where this statement came from, did Rudabaugh really say that or was Bell trying to cover his butt?

In a letter to the governor concerning the Carlyle incident, the Kid wrote that when Carlyle heard the gunshot outside, he thought Greathouse was killed and then dove out the window and was killed by his own posse. Since Kuch and Steck did say, “about 60-75 shots were fired at us, bullets flying from all directions,” that tells us that the posse was doing some trigger-happy shooting. After Carlyle was killed, the confused posse left and with the coast clear, the Kid and his gang rode out themselves. So why would the posse, who had the place completely surrounded and were getting ready to rush the house, suddenly ride off and leave Deputy Carlyle’s killers free to escape? It could only be for one reason, because they made a boo-boo and panicked. Nevertheless, the Kid is blamed for the shooting, and even to this day most  believe that the Kid killed James Carlyle. In Jon Tuska’s book Billy the Kid: Life and Legend, he mentions, “Neither Wilson nor the Kid were ever indicted by the Lincoln County grand jury for this crime. The members of the White Oaks posse chose silence rather then risk exposure.” Because of the lack of evidence, it’s not fair to hold Billy the Kid accountable for this killing and he very well may have told the truth when he said: “(Carlyle) was killed by his own party, they thinking it was me trying to make my escape.”

After the incident at Greathouse’s ranch, the Kid and his gang headed back towards Fort Sumner. The Kid had enough and decided there was no chance to clear things up once and for all, but it was best just to leave the territory. The gang would go to Fort Sumner, get money and supplies and kiss New Mexico goodbye.

The new Lincoln County Sheriff, Pat Garrett, had plans of his own, he was heading for Fort Sumner too. Garrett was bent on capturing the Kid, not only for the money, but the fame of bringing in New Mexico’s most notorious outlaw. Time had run out for Billy the Kid.

(to be continued...)



Bell Boze, Bell   The Illustrated Life and Times of Billy the Kid  Second Edition,   
                           Tri-Star  Boze  Productions, Inc. 1996

Nolan, Frederick  The West of Billy the Kid University of Oklahoma Press, Norman  1998

Tuska, Jon   Billy the Kid: His Life and Legend   University of New Mexico Press,
                    Albuquerque 1994

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